Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Antinomies of data-driven public services: the case of regionalisation of adoption in England

Wednesday 24 May 2017, 3.00pm to 4.00pm

Speaker: Dr James Cornford, University of East Anglia
The adoption of children from care is a form of state-led family making – what Derek Kirton (2013) has called ‘Kinship by design.’ As a practice, it is reliant on a variety of forms of data that are gathered, organised and interpreted to inform the various agencies involved, including children and prospective adopters, social workers, psychologists and clinicians, the family courts, as well as policy makers and academics. The recent regionalisation of adoption, which can be traced back to Michael Gove’s time as Minister at the Department for Education, has sought to ‘radically redesign’ the whole adoption process, building systems around ‘the needs of children,’ incorporating the statutory and voluntary sectors to deliver ‘evidence-based decisions’ and ensuring that ‘the right accountability’ is in place (DfE, 2016). Reform has built on a greater use of large-scale data within the whole adoption system and a more systematic analysis and interpretation of that data (Dickens et al. 2014; Selwyn and Masson, 2014; Farmer and Dance, 2015).
This paper, part of a wider set of studies of how public services ‘think family’ (Cornford et al. 2013), examines the interaction different cultures of data in the reform of the adoption process in England drawing on action research in one regionalisation project. Different perspectives on data associated with different epistemological and moral positions give rise to a set of antinomies – retrospective versus prospective, population-level versus individual case- level, static versus dynamic, representational versus performative – that structure the field. The tentative conclusion is that creating a more data-driven adoption process is a more complex matter than at first might be imagined.
James Cornford


Cornford, J., Baines, S., & Wilson, R. (2012). Representing the family: how does the state ‘think family’? Policy and Politics, 41(1): 1-18.
DfE (2016). Adoption: A vision for Change (March). London: DfE.
Dickens, J., Beckett, C., & Bailey, S. (2014). Justice, speed and thoroughness in child protection court proceedings: Messages from England, Children and Youth Services Review, 46: 103–111.
Farmer, E., & Dance, C. (2015). Family Finding and Matching in Adoption: What Helps to Make a Good Match? British Journal of Social Work, 46(4): 974-992.
Kirton, D. (2013). ‘Kinship by Design’ in England: reconfiguring adoption from Blair to the Coalition, Child and Family Social Work, 18: 97-106.
Selwyn, J., & Masson, J.M. (2014). Adoption, special guardianship and residence orders: a comparison of disruption rates. Family Law Journal, 44: 1709-1714.
Location: Environment Building (next to Sociology), Lecture Theatre ENV/005

Vigilante Science: Examples, Trends and Causes

Wednesday 24 May 2017, 12.00pm to 1pm

Speaker: Dr Meritxell Ramírez-i-Ollé (SATSU Visitor)
I employ the term “Vigilante Science” – in analogy with the vigilante heroes in comic books – to describe cases whereby self-appointed individuals policing the claims, methods and governance of the scientific community have not been recognised by its members as legitimate authorities. Recent examples of vigilantism in science have occurred in climate science, social psychology and nutrition science. I will discuss the possibility of interpreting the alleged “Climategate” scandal, the “replication crisis” in psychology and the “sugar conspiracy” as evidence of a wider social trend of public suspicion, if not complete distrust, towards certain scientists. I will outline two historical and sociological causes for this trend: first, the progressive integration, over the last century, of the disputed sciences into government agendas and industries; and second, the expansion of formal education and the consequent emergence of a better-informed and more self-confident citizenry that is suspicious of the declared political autonomy of scientists.
Biography: Dr Meritxell Ramírez-i-Ollé is The Sociological Review Fellow of 2017. Prior to being awarded this writing fellowship based at Keele University, she was a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at University College London. In November 2015 Meritxell obtained a Ph.D. in STS from the University of Edinburgh with a thesis that examined the roles of trust and scepticism in science. Her academic interests are in the sociology of science and research methodology.
Location: Wentworth College W/243

After Prison: Can we leave Imprisonment Behind?

Thursday 11 May 2017, 2.00pm to 17:00

Speaker: various
The UK prison system is under unparalleled strain, and for many, is simply not working. Statistics from the Ministry of Justice (2016) show that in 2014 approximately 56,000 adult offenders were released, of whom 45.5% re-offended within one year. This symposium is a direct response to these challenges. It offers researchers and academics a space to collaborate and reflect on current issues with incarceration in the UK and to consider a future system of punishment that is effective and humane for both the individual and society. We will discuss a diverse range of ideas including alternatives to imprisonment, re-offending rates, desistance, and even abolition.  
This interdisciplinary event is provided free of charge to support the launch of CrimNet at the University of York. 
Location: University of York - ReCCS Training Suite, Room YH/001B 

Inside the Asylum: Material Life in Lunatic Asylums in Victorian and Edwardian England

Wednesday 10 May 2017, 3.00pm to 4.00pm

Speaker: Dr Jane Hamlett, Royal Holloway, University of London
This talk will explore the material worlds of 'lunatic asylums' (as they were known to contemporaries) in Victorian and Edwardian England. The asylum often figures in the popular imagination as a dark and forbidding place, in which inmates were incarcerated indefinitely. However, recent research has revised this picture, examining the agenda behind the treatment and care provided for patients. In this talk I will examine the material culture of the asylum – using a survey of surviving archives to show how asylums were built and planned, how they were organised on an everyday basis, and the routines and rituals by which patients lived. While the built environment was used to control patients, it could sometimes allow small freedoms, and material goods such as personal items and clothing might be the means of building or maintaining a sense of self within the institution. 
The talk focuses on six institutions that I studied in depth including three public asylums for pauper patients, Hanwell, Brookwood and Long Grove; institutions for middle and upper-class patients including Ticehurst, Holloway Sanatorium and Bethlem Hospital, as well as the criminal lunatic asylum Broadmoor. The built environment of these institutions were often remarkably different and were shaped by contemporary ideas of class and gender. However, from the mid-century, they were all heavily influenced by prevailing ideas of middle-class domesticity and they developed surprisingly homelike interiors, often decorated in the style of a middle-class parlour or drawing room. While the imposition of domestic life was the ideal in these places, an investigation of their day to day material operations reveals a turbulent, battered and patched material world in which discipline and order often failed. Where possible I will explore patient responses to their environments, and in addition to the records produced by the institutions themselves I will draw on a rare cache of patient letters to show what patients thought and felt about the material worlds that were created for them.
BiographyDr Jane Hamlett is a Reader in Modern British History at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her early research explored the material culture of the Victorian middle-class home and was published in her first book Material Relations: Middle-Class Families and Domestic Interiors in England, 1850-1910 (MUP, 2010). She recently led the ESRC-funded At Home in the Institution Project at Royal Holloway, examining the material world of asylums, schools and lodging houses. Her second book At Home in the Institution: Material Life in Asylums, Schools and Lodging Houses in Victorian and Edwardian England came out with Palgrave in 2015. She is currently leading a new AHRC-funded project on 'Pets and Family Life in England and Wales, 1837-1939'. At Royal Holloway she is Deputy Head of Department for History and co-directs the Centre for the Study of the Body and Material Culture. 
Jane Hamlett  Broadmoor Dorm  Holloway Sanatorium
Location: Biology B/B/006 (Was ENV/005)

Curiosity and the City: Mosque Open Days in Sydney and London

Wednesday 3 May 2017, 3.00pm to 4:00pm

Speaker: Professor Richard Phillips, University of Sheffield
Human curiosity - about and with others - has the potential to draw people together, to produce connections within diverse societies. This potential is not always realized though, and curiosity can be risky. One particular risk is associated with the power relations of taking an interest in others, potentially objectifying them as curios. Curious subjects do sometimes lord it over the objects of their curiosity. The asymmetrical power relations of at least some expressions of human curiosity are illustrated in a Human Library scheme, pioneered in Denmark and replicated elsewhere, which invites questions to ‘human books’: Muslims, people living with HIV, and so on. This project is well-meaning and in many ways successful, but it objectifies the human library books, and primarily empowers the ‘readers’. And yet, it is possible to navigate the power relations of curiosity in more emancipatory ways. The ‘Ask Any Question Café’, part of an open day at Gallipoli Mosque in Sydney’s diverse western suburbs, restores some reciprocity to the conversations that follow. This café offered visitors coffee and invited to put questions to their Muslim hosts, who take ownership of the curiosity that is already directed at them. This, and mosque open days elsewhere, encourage and channel versions of curiosity, doing so in accordance with their own agendas and interests, which include challenging stereotypes and prejudices, bridging communities and building solidarities.
Richard Phillips’s research spans a series of contrasting yet connected themes:
  • The World after Empire: themes include Muslim geographies and postcolonial cities
  • Sexuality, Space and Power: constructions and contestations of sexual identities
  • Curiosity and Adventure: from children’s books to health and wellbeing policies
Richard is also very interested in geographical education, particularly fieldwork and other forms of curiosity-driven learning, so his research and teaching are closely connected. Richard taught at the Universities of Aberystwyth, Salford and Liverpool before taking up a Chair in Human Geography at the University of Sheffield in 2012.
Richard Phillips
Location: Environment Building/ENV/005

Colonial Genealogies of the Deserving Poor: From Abolition to Brexit

Wednesday 26 April 2017, 3.00pm to 4.00pm

Speaker: Professor Robbie Shilliam
This talk aims to provide a historical context to contemporary debates over the “white working class” by accounting for the development of this constituency through a postcolonial genealogy of British empire. The objective is to account for the racialization of the distinction between deserving and underserving poor, a distinction through which the “white working class” materialises as a constituency, and to chart the consistent shifting of these racialized coordinates across imperial time and space. The aim is to demonstrate that the “white working class” is neither an indigenous constituency, nor its own progenitor, but rather a product of struggles to consolidate and defend British imperial order, which shaped the postcolonial compact of British society. It follows, then, that contemporary retrievals of the white working class as “deserving” of social security follow a deeply entrenched inability to consider social justice outside of the framework of race and empire. As Britain prepares for the first time to carve out a national economy from an imperial, commonwealth and European hinterland, this talk wishes to clarify the stakes at play.
Location: Alcuin AEW/104

BSA Postgraduate Forum Event: The Promise and Perils of Researching Sensitive Issues

20 November 2018 (09:00-17:00) Call for papers Research concerning sensitive and emotionally demanding issues is vital but challenging...